Like a Boss: Blemish Prone, by David Bax
At the advance screening of Like a Boss, my guest and I were each given a free glass of rosé to sip while enjoying the movie. You could, I suppose, call this bribery but, to be more charitable, you could say that it was an attempt to conjure up the situation in which Like a Boss is best seen, with friends and alcohol (though more likely via Redbox or Amazon than in a theater). Such accoutrements will help the movie’s many, many weaknesses go down smoother while highlighting the consistent, believable friendship between the two leads that is its biggest strength.
Mia (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel (Rose Byrne) are lifelong besties who started a successful online business creating and selling beauty products. Their recent decision to open a brick and mortar store, though, has left them in the red and in the perfect circumstance for make-up magnate Claire Luna (Salma Hayek) to swoop in and take over the company. In order to do so, though, she’ll have to drive a wedge between Mia and Mel.
Luna’s insultingly bald-faced scheme of deception is only possible because–in order to simplify the plot–Mia and Mel are disastrously bad businesswomen. Who on earth would negotiate a merger or buyout without even consulting, much less bringing along, a lawyer? How did they ever get as far as they did. Like a Boss would prefer you not ask these questions, though, and instead just focus on Luna’s performative evil.
Like a Boss‘ somewhat unlikely director is Miguel Arteta; unlikely, at least, if you’re like me and still associate him with his early indie breakthroughs Star Maps and Chuck & Buck. Since then, though, with the occasional exception of movies like 2018’s Duck Butter, he’s worked extensively in mainstream comedy, from episodes of The Office and New Girl to features like Cedar Rapids and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Like a Boss is evidence that, like the movie’s low-rent, primetime soap score, he’s had any trace of personality and distinction hammered out of him.
That’s not to say there are no high points here. As often happens in bad comedies, many of the laughs come from supporting players who aren’t burdened with trying to sell ludicrous story and character developments. Here, those standouts are Billy Porter as Barrett, Mia and Mel’s most cherished employee (his absurdly melodramatic exit from a lunch meeting is the movie’s biggest laugh), and Natasha Rothwell as a member of the ladies’ semi-supportive extended friend group (her blend of smugness about being a new mom and jealousy of Mia and Mel’s childless freedom is hilarious and also makes her maybe the most developed character in the movie).
But most of the time, Like a Boss just jumps from contrived sitcom setup (sneaking away to smoke weed at a baby shower!) to contrived sitcom setup (Uh-oh! Somebody ate too many ghost peppers!). This is less a movie than it is an extended reel made to cut trailers from.